After a promising beginning, the narrative soon breaks down under the weight of unsifted facts. Drawing on recent scholarship, Alvarez faces the pervading racism of American life and, like Trelease (Reconstruction: the Great Experiment), stresses the idealism of the Radical Republicans. But the two strains of his narrative -- establishment politics and the development of black leadership -- fail to mesh. For example, after describing the growing militancy of A. Philip Randolph in the '40's, Alvarez dates the beginning of black revolution from Brown vs. the Board of Education in 1954. An effort to discuss integration, militancy, and black nationalism in topical fashion leads to oversimplification. The result is a little of everything -- court decisions, biographical sketches, etc. -- none of it indispensable as more incisive treatments of the subject abound.